Sentences ranging from 21 months to 8 years were delivered this afternoon for the six. Judge agrees to defer the start date to Jan 11 next year.
In meting out his sentence this afternoon in the long-drawn CHC trial, presiding judge See Kee Oon acknowledged said this was a case without precedence.
He cited unique factors which included the facts that none of the convicted persons enjoyed any personal gains, the church did not ultimately suffer financial loss as all funds were returned; and lastly, that the accused believed they were acting in support of the church.
The judge told the court that the totality of the sentences should reflect the culpability of the convicted. He also explained that the severity of the sham bond charges was greater than the round-tripping charges. With that, he sentenced Lam, who was found guilty of three charges, to 3 years in prison.
Kong who was also found guilty of the same three charges, was sentenced to 8 years in prison. As CHC’s leader and “prime mover of the Crossover Project”, the court found him to be the most culpable for the sham investment charges.
Sharon Tan was sentenced to 21 months imprisonment for seven charges.
For the roundtripping charges, Judge See noted that former fund manager Chew Eng Han was the most culpable as he was the person the others looked to for direction. He sentenced Chew to 6 years imprisonment.
Deputy Senior Pastor Tan Ye Peng, who had 10 charges against him, was sentenced to 5 years and 6 months imprisonment.
Finance manager Wee, who also had 10 charges, was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment.
All six requested for the start of their sentence to be deferred. The judge agreed, setting the date for Jan 11, 2016. Until then, the six parties may consider submitting their appeal against conviction and/or sentencing to the Appeal Court.
Earlier during the day, in its mitigation submissions, the defense submitted a letter appealing for leniency written and signed by 173 executive members of City Harvest Church.
Reading out an excerpt from the letter, senior counsel Edwin Tong said that while the members acknowledged that the six had over-stepped certain boundaries in their zeal to serve the Crossover Project, they nonetheless did not wish that any of them be imprisoned.
The letter was written on Nov 13, after the court pronounced a guilty verdict on the six accused on Oct 21, for charges of criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts.
In his mitigation, Tong implored the court to consider the fact that the Crossover Project was the church project, and that Kong, along with the other five, believed that they were using the church’s funds for church purposes. He also highlighted that at the end of the day, the church did not suffer loss of money.
Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan, acting for Tan Ye Peng, also noted that the building funds was eventually expended for its rightful purposes—purchasing shares in the Suntec property, which have since gone up in value.
Cell group leaders and long-time members of the church largely expressed relief that the trial was finally over and the church could now enter its next phase.
“I do feel that the judge was fair in his sentencing, especially in relation to the sentences recommended by the prosecution,” said cell group leader Justine Lee. “At least it’s a closure now, and we can move on from this. God is still in control of City Harvest Church.”
For Ruth Yong, a long-time CHC member, her feelings were summed up with one word: relief. “I guess with the final judgment delivered, there’s finally a closure,” she said, “and it was good that the judge took our mitigating pleas into consideration.”
Other leaders are already looking at how to progress into the church’s future. “I’m relieved that the trial is finally over, but we must be prayerful and watchful of the new phase, both corporately as a spiritual family, and individually,” said cell group leader Howard Kuay.
Fellow cell group leader Gan Ling Kai echoed this: “This has been a very challenging season for our leaders, the church and our members. There are also many lessons to be learned, which will strengthen our church and purify our faith in the long run. Much clarity will be needed in the months to come. But especially today, the most important thing is to seek God in prayer. This has not and must not change in our church.”
中文报道 – 城市丰收审讯：服刑日期延至2016年1月